UT System Regents' Outstanding Teaching Award 2012





Everyday Practice of Science was selected as a finalist for the 2010 Royal Society Prize for Science Books. The judges said: “How is science done? This book looks behind the scenes and tells the story of what makes scientific minds tick and how scientific theories are made. A fascinating, personal account – essential reading for anyone with an interest in science, from pupil to politician.”

Philosophy of Science and Bioethics

My research program consists of cross-disciplinary studies at the boundary between science and philosophy, attempting to articulate what doing science entails with the goal of informing science policy decisions and advancing science education and public understanding of science. The philosophical approach that I use involves exploring the assumptions and challenges implicit in practice. Currently, two projects are underway.

One project focuses on research integrity in secondary school science fair. Matters relating to research integrity have become a major policy issue in the United States and worldwide. Notwithstanding increased attention to the subject over the past 25 years since NIH made research integrity instruction a requirement in graduate education, the factors that undermine research integrity remain poorly understood. Best practices for promoting research integrity remain poorly developed. The purpose of this study is to understand better science fair as an early student experience in practice of science and to learn if problems with research integrity already are present as early as secondary school science fair.

The other project focuses on assessing risk in human research. Accomplishing risk-based regulation of human research means effectively linking how risky a project is perceived to be for the people taking part with the kind and extent of Institutional Review Board (IRB) and agency oversight. Problems in risk assessment arise from the inherent heterogeneity of human research, e.g., diversity of research protocols, variability of subjects, and biases of IRB members. Equally important, however, is the framework used for risk-assessment itself. The purpose of this study is to test a new framework for analyzing and discussing human research risk based on the heuristic known as post-normal science. Underlying the new framework are key modifications of current practices that, taken together, give rise to the new approach.

1) Current language does not make clear whether the focus should be on risk in the abstract (i.e., considering all possibilities) or in context (i.e., added risk to the specific research population). The new framework asks IRB members to focus on added risk that individuals would face by participating as subjects in the research.

2) Conventionally, IRB members are asked to evaluate probability and magnitude of harm or discomfort. The words magnitude and probability imply that risk could be determined objectively rather than being highly subjective. Moreover, underlying the word probability is the assumption that experimental outcomes will be predictable. In the new framework, the emphasis is on predictability rather than probability, and the words emphasize the subjectivity of risk assessment. Magnitude becomes Decision Stakes: Extent of Added Physical or Psychosocial Risk. Probability becomes Uncertainty about Occurrence of Added Physical or Psychosocial Risk.

3) Finally, the new framework keeps separate for purposes of discussion among IRB members (and potentially researchers) the parameters of Decision stakes and Uncertainty. Doing so may allow a clearer and more nuanced understanding of what makes a particular project more or less risky.


Grinnell, F (1987) The Scientific Attitude, Westview Press, Boulder, CO.

Grinnell, F (1992) The Scientific Attitude, 2nd Edition, Guilford Press, New York, NY.

Grinnell, F. (2009) Everyday Practice of Science: Where Intuition and Passion meet Objectivity and Logic, Oxford University Press, New York, NY.

Elliott, S.L., Fischer, B. A., Grinnell, F., and Zigmond, M. J., eds. (2015) Perspectives on Research Integrity, ASM Press, Washington, D.C.

Everyday Practice of Science -- Reviews and Podcasts

Review by Janet D. Stemedel at Science Blogs

Review by Alice Kim at Science and Consciousness Blog

Review by Midwest Book Review at Amazon.Com

Review by John Kwok at Amazon.Com

Lab Bench Ethics (podcast): Science Progress hosts interview between Jonathan Moreno and Fred Grinnell

Review by Michael R. Dietrich in The Quarterly Review of Biology

Review by D. P. Dash in Journal of Research Practice

Review by Chris Lee at ArsTechnica Blog

Review by Dan Agin at The Huffington Post

Review by A. J. Cornish Bowden at Amazon.Com

Review by Timothy Haugh at Amazon.Com

Review (in Italian) by Domenico Lombardini at Amazon.Com

Review (in French) by Marie-Jo Thiel at Le Centre européen d'enseignement et de recherche en éthique (CEERE)

Review by Russell Blackford at Metamagician and the Hellfire Club Blog

Review by Brian Clegg at Popular Science

Review by Ruth Francis at Nature.com

Review by Sheril Kirshenbaum at The Intersection Blog

Review by Tim Radford at The Guardian

Review by Kerry Taylor Smith at Laboratory News

Review by Juljan Krause at Science as Culture

Review by José Vázquez at CBE Life Sciences Education

Review by Paul Wolstenholme-Hogg at RCS Chemistry World

Review by Cory Lewis at Spontaneous Generations

Recent Publications

Grinnell, F. (2013) Research Integrity and Everyday Practice of Science. Science and Engineering Ethics. 9: 685-701.

Grinnell, F. (2013) It is time to update US biomedical funding. Nature. 501:137.

Grinnell, F. (2014) The interrelationship between research integrity, conflict of interest, and the research environment. J. Microbiol. & Biol. Educat. 15:162-164.

Grinnell, F. (2015) Objectivity in Vocabulary for the Study of Religion. Ed. Robert Segal and Kocku von Stuckrad. Leiden: Brill. In Press

Grinnell, F. (2015) Are We All Scientific Experts Now? (Book Review). Br. J. Hist. Sci. In Press

Grinnell, F. (2015) Rethink our approach to assessing risk. Nature. 522:257

Other Selected Publications

Grinnell, F. (1983) Studies on intersubjectivity: A comparison of Martin Buber and Alfred Schutz. Human Studies 6: 185-195.

Grinnell, F. (1986) Complementarity: An approach to understanding the relationship between science and religion. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 29: 292-301.

Grinnell, F. (1990) The endings of clinical research protocols: Understanding the difference between therapy and research. IRB. 12: 1-4

Grinnell, F. (1994) Radical intersubjectivity: Why naturalism is an assumption necessary for doing science. In Darwinism: Science or Philosophy? ed. J. Buelland V. Hearn, Foundation for Thought and Ethics, Richardson, pp 99-106

Grinnell, F, Bishop, JP, and McCullough, LB. (2002) Bioethical pluralism and complementarity. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 45(3):338-49

Grinnell, F. (2004) Subject Vulnerability: The Precautionary Principle Of Human Research. American Journal of Bioethics. 4:72-74.

Grinnell, F. (2004) Human embryo research: From moral uncertainty to death. American Journal of Bioethics. 4:12-3.

Grinnell, F. (2005) Misconduct: acceptable practices differ by field. Nature. 436: 776.

Grinnell, F. (2006) Intelligent design: fallacy recapitulates ontogeny. FASEB J. 20: 410-1.25.

Grinnell, F. (2009) Intelligible Design or Intelligent Design? It’s a Matter of Faith. Chronicle of Higher Education. 55(18): B5

Grinnell, F. (2009) Discovery in the Lab: Plato’s paradox and Max Delbrück’s principle of limited sloppiness. FASEB J. 20: 410-1.

Grinnell, F. (2011) The Evolution of Credibility The-Scientist. 25:76.


Blog Posts

Oxford University Press Blog (2009): Science and Conflict of Interest

Oxford University Press Blog (2009): How to Support Graduate Education in the Sciences

Oxford University Press Blog (2009): Redefining Death -- Again

Oxford University Press Blog (2010): End of Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research?

ord University Press Contract